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Building a Long-Term E-Commerce SEO Strategy to Acquire New Customers

  • Rai Cornell - SUBTA Best Practices Committee Co-Chair
  • Nov 8, 2021
  • 6 minute read

Cornell Content Marketing specializes in full-funnel content creation, copywriting, and digital marketing for subscription businesses. Founded by a trained psychologist, every word is infused with compelling, connecting psychological principles. Learn more about how Cornell can help you grow your subscription business at:

Whether your subscription business is just starting out, or whether you’ve been in the industry for a while, e-commerce SEO can be a bit of a mystery. But with the right strategy, it can also be an invaluable tool for customer acquisition.

What you need to understand about e-commerce SEO is that it’s a long game. The ultimate goal is not just for a singular piece of content to rank well on Google, but for your site and domain authority to increase over time.

You want other websites to see you as a resource, and for your content to come up when people research a particular topic — or, even better, when they research a particular problem they’re experiencing. And to accomplish this, you need to put out content that is both consistent and SEO-optimized.

Read on to learn how to build a successful e-commerce SEO strategy to acquire more customers for your subscription business.

Start with Your Long-Term Business Goals

Knowing that e-commerce SEO is a long-game strategy, you need to think long-term. Think post-pandemic: What is your plan for once things level out, businesses reopen, and new technology starts emerging on the market?

At Cornell, we create e-commerce SEO strategies for businesses, and our first step is always to meet with the company stakeholders and leaders to figure out the business’s goals. We don’t just want to know the goals for the next three to six months or the remaining calendar year, but for the next one, two, or even 10 years. 

For example, we recently worked with a subscription brand whose target audience is extremely broad. Our client knew they needed to start with specific targetable areas before adding new layers to their audience. Because of that, their SEO strategy needs to be layered, as well.

We started with the first-priority audiences and factored in the longer-term goals so the company is able to rank for keywords prior to or in unison with the roll-out of its future offers for the other audiences.

This process is critical because your content will live online forever – as long as you don’t delete it. For example, articles that we wrote for a popular cat health brand back in 2018 are still driving traffic and sales today. In fact, those older pieces get exponentially more impactful over time. 

By thinking about your company’s long-term goals in creating your SEO strategy, you can ensure that every piece of content you create and every page you optimize will serve you not just now, but far into the future, and have a positive compounding effect for your business.

Pair the Right Keywords with the Right Pages

If you could wave a magic wand and choose exactly what keywords you would rank for, what would they be? Those ideal keywords are the tip of the iceberg — the starting point for your research.

From there, you need to understand where you will be placing your keywords. There are two main categories of pages on your website that will need keywords, and two main types of keywords to use:

  1. Core website pages: primary keywords. These include your home page, ‘About’ page, product pages and descriptions, partner pages, and anything that is in your main navigation. Choose keywords that are the most relevant to the product or service you offer, and/or the specific problems and pain points you solve.
  2. Content pages: tangential keywords. These are blog posts, podcast posts, and some landing pages. Choose keywords that will help people who are searching for more granular, niche solutions to their problems.

Here’s an example: At Cornell, we work with a client who offers a monthly subscription box that connects customers with people living in impoverished countries and helps them purchase from small businesses in those countries. 

For this client’s e-commerce SEO, we chose primary keywords like “make a difference,” “ethically sourced,” “fair-trade products,” and “socially responsible.” People who care about the same things this client does will find the site if they search for those topics.

Meanwhile, tangential keywords would be things like “what does it mean to live in an underdeveloped country” or “why is clean water such an issue in X country” — these topics aren’t directly related to the chief product, but people who are searching for them might also be interested in the product.

Tangential keywords are great for driving content creation and for helping educate readers. They’re also a way to take advantage of keywords that are either low search volume and low difficulty, or high search volume and high difficulty.

Choose the Right Keywords According to Search Metrics

We recommend working with a marketing agency or e-commerce SEO expert at this stage, because the data can get overwhelming. It can be difficult to weigh multiple keywords with similar metrics against each other.

When researching keywords using an SEO tool, there are three main factors to look at: the keyword itself, the search volume and trend, and the keyword difficulty. Each of these factors is an essential component to any healthy e-commerce SEO strategy.

The Keyword

Is this keyword relevant to you? If not, it will be extremely difficult to tie it into your content seamlessly. On top of that, when people search for this keyword and land on your page, if they don’t find what they’re looking for, they will feel tricked, and they won’t like your brand as a result.

Search Volume & Search Trend

We look at these two metrics together, because the search trend can either validate or invalidate the search volume. A keyword may have a high search volume over the past 12 months, but if the trend graph shows you that the searches happened in random spikes eight to nine months ago, it’s probably not worth using now.

That being said, in the world of e-commerce SEO, you do want as high of a search volume as possible, as long as the trend is consistent.

Consultants and businesses that take on very big client projects don’t need four-figure search metrics because they only need a few clients per year. E-commerce and subscription businesses, on the other hand, need as many customers as they can get, so go with a minimum of four-figure search volume, and ideally five-figure or higher. 

Keyword Difficulty

The keyword difficulty will really limit you in terms of what’s doable, so it’s important to factor it into your e-commerce SEO strategy. If you’re in the startup phase, your domain authority and site authority are likely very low, so you need keywords with a difficulty below 40. 

To rank for more difficult keywords, you must first build up to the established or expanding phase of business. It’s almost impossible for a newer website to rank for a keyword in the 50s or above, and difficult even for some established businesses.

However, if you are a company like SUBTA that is continuously putting out new, cutting-edge content, you can try to rank for keywords in the 60s. In that case, your content volume and quality is extremely high, and people look at your website as a primary source, so you are more likely to rank for higher-difficulty keywords.

Keyword Placement for E-commerce SEO

As you are choosing and incorporating your keywords, make sure you only use one keyword per page. This will avoid cannibalization, which is when multiple pages within the same domain compete with each other for the same keyword. 

Also, remember to use your keywords on your social media profiles. These are important pages that are indexed by search engines. You can use the same keywords on these pages because they don’t share a domain. 

For more guidance on incorporating your chosen keywords into your content, download our SEO checklist. If you need help with e-commerce SEO implementation or content creation, get in touch with Cornell Content Marketing.

Looking for more ways to grow your brand? Discover the latest trends on how subscription businesses can expand by attending SubSummit!